A Secret in the Mist: Paramo de Chingaza
Visiting Bogota for a tourist, should be about living the day-to-day life that the city offers, with the inclusion of some cultural & historical locations that are located around the city. I will get into that on the post I will write about Bogota (one day), but for now I want to focus on a place that I would recommend to both locals, and tourists alike.
Located so close to the city, but still a bit of a trek from it, you can find a natural wonderland, mountains surrounded by mist, terrain covered in a beautiful explosion of green and earthy colors, a quiet and protected bubble, that plays a great role in our ecosystem: Parque Nacional del Chingaza.
Defined in English as a tundra, and commonly known in Spanish as paramo, this park’s ecosystem is responsible for providing 80% of the water for all of Bogota. Not only that, but the park is home to 383 different plant species, 260 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 44 amphibians and almost 30 reptiles.
The park offers different types of trails, depending on your experience hiking, and on the amount of time you are willing to hike. Please note that if Bogota already has a high elevation... Chingaza surpasses it, reaching a maximum altitude of 4,020 meters above sea level. Walking in Chingaza is a magical, yet exhausting experience, so I recommend lots of water, good layers for the potential changes in temperature and possibility of rain, and shoes with good grip.
My main recommendation for this park is to visit with a guide. First of all, because if not, getting there and gaining access might be tricky (there are a lot of restrictions, given the great protection given to these parks). Secondly, and more importantly, visiting with a guide allows you to actually learn about the plants, wildlife, and beauty that surrounds you. The scenery changes dramatically from one area to another, and knowing why and how this happens is as important to this place as seeing it.
Having grown up in Bogota, I cannot believe it took me over 20 years to actually get myself to visit this park, and I would go back, not only because of its importance to maintaining our way of life in the city, but because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is strikingly different to any other ecosystem, as if preserved in an alternate reality from the world.
If you are looking for a guide, I recommend www.caminantesdelretorno.com. We were taken by Oscar, a guide who has over 30 years of experience visiting different places in Colombia, and he provided us with transport to and from Chingaza.